Monday, June 29, 2009

there's nothing funny about polio

Much of our parental duties consist of making Freddy Frog and Henrietta Hippo * talk. (These are the adorable felt hand puppets my aunt made Lucy. Thanks so much, Aunt Barb. No really. Thank you. For making little creatures that need our hands and voices to "work." Couldn't you have just bought something with batteries?
Kidding! Totally kidding!)

Today, for some reason, though, Lucy didn't want Freddy and Henry to talk.
She wanted them to cough.
Okay, kid. Whatever.
The coughing actually turned out to be an easy gig, because I only have one cough, and didn't even attempt to differentiate between the two puppets. Plus, she just sat in my lap and cuddled the puppets, and looked in their throats, and said, "You sick, Freddy Frog?"

Of course, then she asked, "You throw up Freddy Frog? You throw up, Henry?"
I laughed (in a froggy/hippo-type voice) and then said, "No, I just have a little cold. I'm just coughing."

Then a minute later, she asked, "You in a wheelchair, Freddy Frog?"


From the other room, Dyami said, "Sheesh. This is starting to sound like polio."
I started laughing again (less froggy this time).
Dyami, still from the other room: "You know, Heather, there's nothing funny about polio."
Right. Except when your toddler is diagnosing it in hand puppets.

*What about Giraffy, their lovable sidekick? Well, let's just say that Giraffy suffered a um, little mishap, when he (she?) was put into the wash hidden in some sheets. Giraffy's spots, horns, and eyes were all glued on. The glue did not agree with the wash.
It's a little creepy seeing a spotless giraffe with glasses but no eyes.
However. We retrieved all the spots! And eyes! and will glue them on again. Very soon. Although doing so would mean that we then have three puppets instead of two.

Note: I have two hands.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

another cool charity

If you're like me, you kind of sigh with disbelief at the general conservative Christian opposition to environmental protection. Really? We don't want to honor and respect the world that God so fearfully and wonderfully made?
Which makes it really exciting to find a Christian organization devoted to the part of environmental protection that really motivates me: saving the earth for people.

Because--let's face it--I'm not exactly outdoorsy. I grew up camping and hiking occasionally (my parents have hiked the Grand Canyon like fifty times...without me), but most days, I'd just as soon lie in a bed as on an air mattress under the stars. And animals are nice and all, but so are coffee shops and book stores.
However: ignoring the fact that we depend on the earth's resources (clean water, growable food) to live is lunacy. And ignoring the fact that those who are marginalized depend on the earth much more than me is at best callous.

So the more I learned about Plant with a Purpose, (the charity formerly known as Floresta) the more excited I got. They work on reforesting impoverished areas, and restoring the environment for people who depend on it absolutely. They do work in the Dominican Republic and in Haiti, along with mexico and in Africa. And they do it all in Jesus' name.
I still remember reading about the environmental catastrophes of Haiti, where you can see the border between the DR and Haiti clearly because all the trees on one side are gone. Guess which side is more impoverished? Guess which side had a harder time recovering after the blasts of the 3 hurricanes last year?
I also remember reading one of PWP's updates. They pointed out that when people deforest their own land for firewood, they're not stupid. They know that long-term, cutting down all the trees will starve them eventually. They just will starve now if they can't cook anything. Or boil their water.
PWP also works on sustainable agriculture, microloans, and community development.
Incidentally, after the hurricanes last year, they received a lot more interest in their programs from locals, because the locals realized that those who had worked with PWP recovered from the devastation more quickly, and with less help from outsiders.
So if you're a tree-hugger like me and you'd like to support Christians making environmental work a priority, check out Plant with Purpose. And bonus! They're even located right here in San Diego!

Friday, June 26, 2009

PIH donation

So I just was reminded that PIH has the opportunity to have any donations right now matched. If you're looking for a new organization to support, doing so now would be great for them. By July 1, the matching grant ends (at the end of their fiscal year.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

life you can save, part two

So I was kind of stoked to see one of the organizations I am excited about profiled in The Life You Can Save. I read Mountains Beyond Mountains last year (like the rest of America) and we challenged and struck by Paul Farmer's work with Partners in Health, his life, and his example. His service to the patients he serves is so extreme as to make me uncomfortable--with him and with myself.
We often choose to support Christian organizations, and PIH isn't, in name (though it's inspired a lot by liberation theology, and by Jesus himself). But PIH's committment to the worth of the people they serve is overwhelming. They airlift Haitians to Boston for lifesaving cancer treatments if no help in Haiti is available. It may not be cost-effective, when compared to other NGOs, but Farmer argues that if we'd do it for someone in the US, we should be willing to pay for people in Haiti to do the same. That kind of attention to people's intrinsic worth seems extremely Christian to me.
That's not to say that PIH doesn't have their eye on cost-effective treatment and interventions that actually change lives. They approach health care in a holistic way: if people have tuberculosis, the state of their house and their nutrition has as much to do with their recovery as drug treatments. So they end up treating a lot of social ills that aren't included in most medical schools' training.
And they were able to show to GiveWell that they have made a hard-nosed, measurable difference in the communities they serve (they started in Haiti, but have moved to Russia, South America, and Africa, as well).
So go and donate, already! Give some love to PIH.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

the life you can save

Okay. Right now, I want all my friends and readers (the tens of you!) to go to this website. Read about the pledge. Maybe check out the idea behind the site (and the book it promotes). And if you can, read the book. It's short!
And then, take the pledge. Really.

To review a bit of what the heck I am talking about:
The author, of The Life You Can Save, Peter Singer, argues pretty forcefully that:
1. Religions, ethics, conscience all argue that we should care about extreme poverty.
2. Extreme poverty is daunting, but there are good signs that it can be ended within our lifetime.
3. We should all do what it takes to contribute to that effort. How much we contribute is up to our conscience--but Singer advocates a sliding scale of effort that would allow those of us who are affluent to remain affluent, but also eliminate poverty. Giving more than that is great--but perhaps we have no excuse to give less.
4. And if we create an environment that talks about giving, and shares information about where we're giving, and what organizations seem most effective, we can make giving normal, and exciting, and part of our culture.

What I like about Singer's approach is the sort of one-two punch that it presents. Based on the ethical arguments he makes, and the examples he gives (Paul Farmer, people in the 50% League, who give half of their income to the extremely poor), I felt like I should probably sell my house and don sackcloth to even hope to live up to his standard. So when I got to his final proposal, I was, well, relieved. Because sackcloth sounds itchy and I kind of like my house.

To be honest, I'm always kind of excited when we make donations to my favorite causes. I can be kind of a cheapskate, but for these causes, I know that the money I'm giving is worth it. And Singer encourages us all to share that excitement about others and talk about where we give. So maybe in my next few blog posts I'll talk about some of the organizations I most like giving to. And I'd love to hear from some of you, fair readers, to find out where you're excited to send your money to help those most in need. Go ahead! Comment! I know it feels kind of weird to talk about charitable giving, but maybe we all need to inspire eachother a little bit more.

One other thing: Singer talks a lot about the effectiveness of aid, and mentions an organization, GiveWell, that is trying to evaluate how effective different aid organizations are. GiveWell hasn't recommended very many organizations yet, because most of the organizations they reviewed don't really have data about whether the money they spend (surely with good intentions) actually impacts poverty. But I think if more of us start asking about that kind of data, more organizations will start thinking not just about giving, but about whether the money spent is acheiving anything.

Because if we are going to give more, I'd like to think we might see real fruit from it--soon. Just think: a little bit more from all of us, and we might not have to live with the spectre of the lives we aren't saving.

botany and zoology with Lucy

"Contrary to what I said before, pasta does not grow on trees like strawberries and apples. Pasta is made of wheat. Just like bread and meat and tomatoes are made of wheat.
You know that?

The ladybug plant is made of ladybugs. And when it's night time, the ladybugs go under the street, where their mommies and daddies give them baths, read them stories, and kiss them good night.
You know that?"

Night night, little ladybug.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Are you (freaking) kidding?

I purchased my PG Tips a few days ago from my local British food store. (PG Tips! Oh ever-loving caffeinated nectar!)

Anyway, I love the store: it's all china teapots, chocolate, and weird prepackaged cakes marked as "pudding". And very large boxes of PG Tips.
I told Lucy to take the box of tea to the front counter. After the saleslady mentioned that she used about twelve bags a day (two is about my limit before the jitters start), the saleslady asked Lucy, "Do you drink this tea?"
I thought she was joking, and laughed. Uproariously. Because what kind of fool would give their toddler caffeine? (Cause this tea is _strong_. Which is why I drink it).

The woman sniffed and looked a little offended. "My mum used to give it to us in our baby bottles," she said.

I blinked a few times. I think the woman thought I thought that the caffeine would damage my child in some way.
No, actually. I think giving it to her would damage me.

It occurs to me now: how did the British get to be known as the phlegmatic, staid country with that much caffeine running through their veins?
I guess they're competing with the Italians, who drink straight espresso.
Remind me never to babysit Italian toddlers.

She's not drunk. Really.

Is it just me, or does an overtired toddler act remarkably like a freshman on spring break? Here are the kinds of tired. For "sleepyhead" substitute "drunk" and you'll see what I mean:

--The expansive sleepyhead.
Every gesture is exaggerated. Every facial expression is a mug.

--The mean sleepyhead.
"No! Nonononononononono!"

--The silly sleepyhead.
Repeated words, really bad jokes, and the tone of voice tuned to remind one of nails on a chalkboard.

--The clumsy sleepyhead.
Trips, falls off of chairs, definitely fails a sobriety test.

--The punchy sleepyhead.
This could also mimic a cocaine habit. Because that is what this toddler is like. A crackhead. Zooming from one activity to another, running, jumping, in defiance of all laws of the conservation of energy. Or: perhaps the energy is drawn from the parent in some sort of quantum equation.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

letter to my skin

Please stop it. Stop itching. Decide that you like one of the various creams/salves/lotions I'm applying to you every three hours, and just shut up. Because that's what it's like when you itch all day and all night. You are like an overtired toddler, whining about everything. And a few hours of that won't kill anyone, but days and days? And nights and nights? When I'm not waking up to pee, I'm waking up to try not to itch you and to apply more cream/salve/lotion.

Also: why does one side itch worse than the other side? Am I growing a lopsided baby? Is she favoring one side? Because with all the growing/sagging/protruding that's going on around here, there does not seem to be a definitive listing to one side or another. I seem pretty even-keeled, externally. So: right side, get it together.

Don't you snicker, left side. Because sure, you're not as irritating as right side, but that is only in comparison. Believe me, if right side were to shape up tomorrow, you'd still be mighty annoying.

Also: clothes. Specifically, elastic bands, made to grip onto expanding flesh? Funnily enough, you are making the situation worse. My skin does not like anything grippy. So stop it.

All right. I'm starting to claw at you again, so I'm going to stop writing and go pick out some cream to put on you. Please. Just pretend you like it, at least long enough to let me go to sleep.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

our night life

Yesterday an envelope came from Netflix. It was one of our favorite TV shows, The Closer. Lucy saw it and asked what it was. "It's a video called The Closer that we watch sometimes when you're in bed," I told her.
"You mean you not watch Between the Lions?"
I blinked, and then said, "No, honey, we don't watch Between the Lions without you."

Which led me to imagine what Lucy thinks we do after she goes to bed:
"Honey? You put the video in?"
"Yep! Let's watch the "Piggyback, Piggyback" episode, then finish off with "Popcorn Popper."
"Great. We should have some frozen blueberries, too. With milk and Cheerios. And maybe finish it off by dumping all of the Scrabble pieces out on the floor and then spinning them around on the game board until they fall off."
"Awesome! I've been waiting for this all day!"